Friday, January 20, 2012

James 5:13-20 - On Your Mark, Get Set, PRAY!

13 Is anyone among you suffering?  Then he must pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick?  Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,
20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Context and Main Points

James has filled his letter to converted Jews with miscellaneous instructions. 

In today’s passage, he finishes his letter with a long passage about the importance of prayer.  I see him making two main points: (1) we need to pray in all circumstances, and (2) we can all be prayer warriors – its power is not limited to the superheroes of the faith.

Praying in all Circumstances

We see in verses 13, 14, and 16 that we are to pray when we or others are suffering or feeling blessed.  Which means…pretty much every second of the day. :-)

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,  (Ephesians 6:18)

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  (Romans 12:15)

Whether we’re suffering or feeling super, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  Even when we’re suffering, He has a really good reason for it – it may be to draw us back to relationship with Him through repentance (like in verse 15 of today’s passage), or it may be so that we can serve as an example to others:

People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly…in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power.  (2 Corinthians 6:6 MSG)

Furthermore, regardless of whatever is going on around us, God’s will is for us to pray to Him.  After all, He died so He could spend time with us.  Let’s do that! :-)

You Don’t Have to be a Superhero…

In verse 17, James uses Elijah to make his point, but if he forget the original group to whom James was writing, this example can seem like it was pulled out of thin air.  Remember that to the Jews, Elijah and Moses were tied as *the guy* - the ultimate “faith man,” much like we look at Paul today. 

James’ point is that because Elijah genuinely sought after God, He gave him the power to affect all sorts of miracles – and that we are no different from Elijah!  If we have faith in God (Mark 11:22-24) and genuinely strive to live according to God’s will (verse 16b of today’s passage), there is no limit to what God can use us to do!

Are not the effects of prayer listed in this passage miracles, after all?  We’re talking about healing the sick and calling sinners to repentance!

(A side note on that and verses 19-20 – see post on Galatians 6:1, linked on the side-bar under “correction”.)

Remember – God, through his grace, has given us as His disciples great power:

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.  (Matthew 10:1)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  (John 14:12-14)

Discussion Starters

How do you keep it in your mind to pray in all circumstances, even when you’re suffering?
What effects of the power of prayer have you seen in your own life?
What things have really stuck out to you as we’ve journeyed through the book of James?


We’ve now officially finished our second book!  We’ll have our usual weekend post, of course, and then starting next week, we’ll do a short topical series on spiritual gifts.  After that, we’ll return to our verse-by-verse format with the gospel of Matthew.  Sound good? :-)

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